Leonardo DiCaprio Adds Virtual Reality Startup to List of Investments

September 22, 2017, 2:00 PM UTC

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is now an investor in virtual reality.

The celebrity, known for his leading roles in films like Titanic, The Aviator, and The Wolf of Wall Street, has invested an undisclosed amount in virtual reality startup MindMaze.

DiCaprio’s investment in MindMaze is the latest in the actor’s portfolio of companies he’s put money into. Some of DiCaprio’s other investments include the garbage startup Rubicon Global, data analytics company Qloo, mattress maker Casper, and sustainable food company LoveTheWild.

MindMaze is a five-year-old Swiss startup that specializes in virtual reality technology that’s primarily been used in the health care industry. In February 2016, the startup scored a $100 million funding round that put its valuation at roughly $1 billion, qualifying it a so-called startup unicorn.

“I am excited about the possibilities of MindMaze’s technology, especially for its potential to be a driving force in media and entertainment in the years to come,” DiCaprio said in a statement.

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MindMaze’s VR technology uses a combination of motion-tracking sensors and software to capture a person’s movements based on their electrical impulses, explained CEO Tej Tadi. The technology can then use that information to create virtual reality avatars that mimic a person’s movements in real time.

The startup has been testing its VR technology in European hospitals with stoke victims, amputees, and other people suffering from debilitating conditions, as a way to help them regain their movement.

Now MindMaze wants to branch out to other industries like the media and entertainment world. Earlier this year it debuted a smaller, headset version of its healthcare VR system that is intended to capture movements of a person’s face as opposed to their entire bodies.

Tadi believes the company’s MASK VR system could be incorporated into other VR devices like Facebook’s (FB) Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, or Google (GOOG) Daydream VR headsets. People could potentially play virtual reality video games that react to their facial expressions, so in the case of a first-person shooter, the game’s difficulty could be reduced if it recognizes that the player appears frustrated or nervous.

DiCaprio learned about MindMaze from mutual connections in the health care industry, which the actor does charity work for, Tadi said. He said DiCaprio was fascinated with MindMaze’s VR technology and believed that the Hollywood industry could use it to create more interactive movies, films, or animated shorts.

For instance, Tadi imagines people could watch VR animated shorts based on popular movies in which storylines may change based on the viewers’ expressions.

Tadi shot down the notion that MindMaze’s new connection with DiCaprio is purely promotional, saying he expects DiCaprio to introduce the startup to his Hollywood connections. DiCaprio will serve as an advisor to MindMaze.

“This is not just marketing spin for him or me,” Tadi said. DiCaprio will be an active participant in helping guide the virtual reality startup, he continued, and will not just show up to meetings “just once in a blue moon.”

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